Washington, D.C., April 18, 2014 – A number of meat and poultry groups are thanking President Obama for his administration’s “strong stance” on agricultural tariffs in trade negotiations with Japan. The Asian country is hoping to maintain tariffs on the so-called five sacred products – rice, wheat, beef and pork, dairy products and sugar – throughout the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade negotiations with the U.S. and ten other nations.

The groups thanked the president in a letter sent Wednesday. Signees included the American Meat Institute, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Chicken Council, North American Meat Association and the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council.

“We appreciate that, in the latest round of talks in Tokyo on a [TPP] agreement, your representatives did not capitulate to Japan’s continuing attempts to maintain protectionist barriers to our products,” the groups write.

Last week, Japanese media outlets reported that Washington had called upon Japan to cut beef tariffs to less than 10 percent, down significantly from the current 38.5 percent level. Many in the agriculture community, however, are still hoping to move those tariffs much closer to zero.

The letter writers warn that a final TPP deal that allows Japan to protect their agricultural products sets “a bad precedent with Japan (that) could lead to…nations such as China demanding massive exemptions from tariff elimination in industrial and high-tech products.”

“This would be a damaging outcome for a wide swath of our nation’s commerce, agricultural and otherwise,” the letter says.

Obama will travel to Japan next week as part of a four-nation tour of Asia. He is scheduled to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, though it is unclear whether the leaders will discuss TPP specifically.

According to the Congressional Research Service, two-way U.S. agricultural trade with TPP countries totaled $108 billion in 2012, 44 percent of all U.S. agricultural exports and imports. Total U.S. merchandise trade with TPP countries was $1.5 trillion. Trade proponents argue a more liberalized trans-pacific trade regime would mean even more money flow between the U.S. and its participating partners.


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